Spring Training has just begun. Baseball is back. It’s a fun time for all of us who play in dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. Drafts and auctions are underway. Many different websites (including this one) have already or are now putting out prospect rankings, overall lists as well as team Top 10, 25, 30, and 50s, and sometimes even more than that. As I cover the Red Sox minor league beat for this site, I really want to spotlight some of the Sox prospects to keep an eye on this Spring, and where they might end up as the season draws near. Who, if any, will break camp with the big league squad, and who’s going to be Pawtucket-bound, or on their way to Portland, Salem, Greenville, or later in the summer to Lowell and Rookie ball Gulf Coast League?
As I consider all these players and formulate my plan of attack for spotlighting the prospects, I feel that it’s best to wait at least a couple more weeks and let the first group of Spring Training games happen. Once many of these kids get some games under their belt and continued reps at the plate or on the mound, I’ll be better able to speak to their 2019 outlook and make better predictions of what to expect this season. For now, what’s my idea for a good February column? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Red Sox prospects after watching today’s first Spring Training game (vs. Northeastern University)? It is…
Word Association, and A to Z. Literally, those are the two things I just thought of for this article. So as I attempt to do this and relate word association and make an A to Z list that has to do with Red Sox prospects, please bear with me. I’m thinking it could be fun, maybe even a little informative. Indeed it could also be a disaster but I’m up for the challenge. If you’d be so inclined to come along on this crazy ride with me, here we go. Red Sox A to Z, word association style (first thing that comes to my mind) starts now!
A – Antoni Flores! Why not? Maybe one of the most exciting Sox prospects heading into 2019. He was signed out of the stacked 2017 J2 International class and has climbed the organization prospect rankings pretty quickly over the last 6-12 months. Most prospect followers got their first looks at Flores in Florida this past Fall during Instructs. Now let’s hope to see him bring his talents to Short Season-A ball in Lowell, MA this summer. Flores baseball card to own: 2018 Bowman Chrome autograph
B – Bobby Dalbec. Has to be, right? He went yard to straight away center in his first at bat this Spring. This will likely be the first of what, 35-40 homers this year between AA and AAA? I ranked Michael Chavis at number one in the system on my 2019 Red Sox Top 50 Prospects last month. I’m thinking Dalbec has already leapfrogged him into the pole position and the season hasn’t started yet. Dalbec card to own: 2016 Bowman Chrome autograph
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) February 22, 2019
C – C.J. Chatham. I think he could be a solid defender and contact hitter. I also think (and I mentioned this in my Top 50) he could be destined for a major league utility role, at least if he stays with Boston. There’s just too much depth at the major league level and in the minors on the left side of the infield. Chatham card to own: 2016 Bowman Chrome autograph
D – Dalbec. Wait did I already use him? OK, let’s go with Darwinzon. Yeah, I like him too. Darwinzon Hernandez, my 5th ranked Sox prospect heading into 2019. He’s a lefty who possesses some nasty stuff and can potentially be a dominant major league arm. Some feel he may be too dominant to stick in the starting rotation and could become a power bullpen guy. One thing I know is Darwinzon is no LOOGY. Hernandez card to own: 2018 Bowman Chrome autograph
E – Eduardo Lopez. I honestly don’t know too much about Lopez yet, and haven’t seen much video of him. He was Boston’s top International signing in 2018. Only 16, let’s see if he makes his stateside debut in 2019 or 2020.
F- Feltman. That’s Durbin Feltman folks. Remember the name! Feltman is one of my favorite Sox prospects at this time. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 MLB Draft last June, he could be on the fast track to Fenway’s bullpen, making it to the majors as early as this season. Definitely keep an eye on him this Spring to see how the Sox utilize him. There are rumors he could be pitching in some big league Spring Training games. Draft him in dynasty leagues NOW to be a closer of the future. Feltman card to own: 2018 Elite Extra Edition autograph
G – Gorst. Short for Matthew Gorst. Behind only Ryan Brasier (13 saves), this kid notched the second most Saves (9) in the Red Sox minor leagues in 2018 across three levels, A+ Salem, AA Portland, and AAA Pawtucket. Gorst should hold down the back end of the PawSox bullpen in 2019 and is ready and waiting if they need another relief pitcher in Boston. No Gorst Bowman cards yet.
H – Houck. Tanner Houck. Boston’s 1st round draft pick in 2017. After a so-so pro debut in 2017, Houck turned the corner in 2018. Although the final stat lines don’t show it (7-11, 4.24 ERA, 1.43 WHIP), he did throw 119 innings for High-A Salem and the Sox hope he can build on that this year in Portland. Houck card to own: 2017 Bowman Chrome Draft auto
I – ISO, an advanced statistic that stands for Isolated Power. It’s a sabermetric computation used to measure a batter’s raw power. According to MLB.com, ISO measures the raw power of a hitter by taking only extra-base hits, and the type of extra-base hit, into account. For example, a player who goes 1-for-5 with a double has an ISO of .200. The formula – Extra bases / At-bats OR Slugging percentage – Batting average
Figured I’d like to know who led each of Boston’s minor league teams in ISO in 2018, and here’s what I found. Chavis led Triple-A Pawtucket with a .273 ISO. Esteban Quiroz (now with the Padres) led Double-A Portland with a .299 ISO mark. Dalbec had .252 ISO in his short time in Portland towards the end of the season, but spent more time at High-A Salem in 2018 and his .317 ISO led that squad. In Full Season-A Greenville, Marino Campana had the highest ISO at only .194. In Lowell, not counting short rehab stints from Devers and Chavis, the Spinners ISO leader at .294 was 8th round pick Elih Marerro (son of Eli Marrero). In the Dominican Summer League (DSL) Danny Diaz led the way with a .238 ISO in 113 plate appearances.
J – JetBlue Park at Fenway South. The Spring Training home of your 2018 World Series champions. This is where fans of all ages flock to in February and March to get a glimpse of the boys of summer fine tuning their craft as they prepare for the long season ahead. One of the coolest things to me is watching the veterans taking the time to give pointers and speak to the rookies and prospects. In my eyes it’s a continuous learning curve. Not only are the young players receiving invaluable tips from the older players, but you can bet that many of the seasoned veterans are also learning new things about the game from some of the new kids on the block.
K – Korby Batesole. He didn’t make my Red Sox Top 50 list. Drafted in the 26th round in 2018, Batesole played in 46 games in Lowell last year, slashing .285/.353/.318/.671. The thing I like most about this shortstop is his birthday – February 8th. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that’s the day (in 1986) that Macho Man Randy Savage defeated Tito Santana in the old Boston Garden to win the Intercontinental Championship. I was 15. Batesole wouldn’t be born for another 10 years.
L – Lowell Spinners. A- ball starts in mid-June and they’re done in early September. I love hitting Spinners games and the park is close to my sister’s place so we get to take my boys (older) and her boys (younger) on occasion. Last summer I made it up to Lowell twice and got to see the likes of Brandon Phillips, Jarren Duran, Devlin Granberg, Cole Brannen, Jonathan Ortega and Tyler Dearden. If you want to be up close to some of your lower level Sox prospects, try to see the Spinners this year – either in Lowell or on the road.
M – Mata. Bryan Mata. Boston’s ONLY 2018 Futures Game representative. I had him ranked 4th in the system going into 2018 (and 2nd midseason!) while several other lists liked him too as he was pretty much a consensus Top 10 in the organization prospect. What happened? 58 walks in 72 IP at High-A Salem and only a 1.05 K/BB ratio. I think many of the 2018 rankings were going off numbers from his excellent 2016 debut in the DSL (2.80 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.21 K/BB) and his 2017 in Sally League A-ball (3.74 ERA, 8.6 K/9, even though the K/BB dropped to 2.85 that season). He’s only 19 and another year at High-A would be the best thing for him. Mata card to own: 2017 Leaf Metal Draft auto
N – Nick and Nicholas. I mean Nick Decker and Nicholas Northcut. Two highly touted Red Sox draft picks from the 2018 class. 2nd round Decker and 11th round Northcut are both expected to start 2019 with Greenville in Full Season A ball, according to SoxProspects.com. Decker card to own: 2018 Elite Extra Edition autograph. Northcut’s first cards will hopefully be in 2019 product.
O – Ockimey & Ortega. One of my former Sox prospect man crushes was Josh Ockimey. I still like him but don’t have the crush that was with me one year ago. He had 20 homers between AA/AAA last year but only slashed .172/.280/.250 in the Arizona Fall League. My gut says he’s stuck in Triple-A for now until Boston needs a power bat in a pinch, maybe a-la Sam Horn? I would like to develop a prospect crush on Jonathan Ortega, Boston’s 19th round pick in last year’s MLB Draft. He was actually promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket for 2 games last July (Boston had called up Sam Travis and Rusney Castillo was on the 7-day DL) and then sent him back to Lowell. Ockimey card to own: 2017 Bowman Chrome auto, no Ortega cards yet
P – Portland Sea Dogs. Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. I try to make one trip up to Portland, ME at least once every summer. Even if I don’t (as it’s a 3 hour drive from my place in Western Mass), the Sea Dogs are in Hartford playing the Yard Goats several times a year and I get plenty of looks at them there. My favorite trip to Portland was in July 2016 as I got to see both Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi, the top 2 prospects in their organization at the time.
Q – Quiroz. Yep, former Red Sox prospect Esteban Quiroz. Why not a current Sox prospect? Well I didn’t really want to write about Justin Qiang or Gabriel Quintero, no offense to Qiang or Quintero. Secondly, I think the player Boston received in return for Quiroz could be a player with the big league team this season. His name is Colten Brewer and look for him to play a role in the Sox bullpen at some point soon. Quiroz card to own: 2017 Topps Now WBC #31 (Team Mexico)
R – Roniel Raudes. I keep going back to “2016 Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year” and all of the 2017 Raudes baseball cards I added to my personal collection (PC). It’s been a rough couple of seasons since and Red Sox Nation wants to see a rebound in 2019. His numbers fell off in 2017 with the jump from A to High-A, and while he was working hard to improve in 2018, the injury bug caught him which derailed most of his season and he didn’t pitch after June 8th. Raudes card to own: 2017 Bowman Chrome Mega Box auto
S – Salem Red Sox. It’s funny how so many Red Sox fans hear that the Red Sox High-A affiliate is in Salem, they just assume it’s the old, historic North Shore town of Salem, Massachusetts. Heck, I did when I first learned about the Red Sox minor league system several years ago. Why would Boston have a minor league team in Salem, Virginia? Then I learned about the Carolina League and that most of those High-A teams are in the Carolinas/Virginia region. I now follow the Salem Red Sox as much as I can via Twitter, MILB.tv and other written reports since I consider them a feeder to Double-A Portland, and that’s the Red Sox minor league team I get to see most often when they visit Dunkin’ Donuts Park just down the road from me in Hartford, CT.
T – Triston Casas. If you haven’t yet, it might be getting too late, but go invest in some 1st Bowman Casas cards! His 1st Bowman auto still elludes me so if anyone can help me out on that front, please hit me up. You can snag his 2018 Bowman’s Best autos for less than $5 right now. A thumb injury cut his 2018 pro debut season short, so all eyes in Fort Myers are on Boston’s 1st round pick this Spring, and he’s expected to man 1B at Greenville (A) this season. Casas card to own: 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft auto
Triston Casas is huge. Red Sox first rounder in 2018 pic.twitter.com/mA9Li3jZTT
— Christopher Smith (@SmittyOnMLB) February 21, 2019
U – UCL. Indeed, the good ol’ ulnar collateral ligament. One torn UCL belongs to former Sox prospect Michael Kopech, who was traded along with Yoan Moncada, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz to the White Sox for Chris Sale. I’d do that trade over and over again, because as you’ve heard me quote Casey Stern before, “prospects are cool; parades are cooler.” The other torn UCL belongs to Jay Groome, the Red Sox 1st round draft pick back in 2016. His road to recovery from TJS should have him back on a mound sometime in late 2018. Let’s hope Groome comes back strong for 2020 and he could be a big factor in the near future. The talent and stuff is there, but so is the injury concern.
V – Victor Acosta. Indeed, the unheralded Victor Acosta, coming in as part of my “Next 10” following my Top 50 Sox prospects. He’s 22 and has been with the Red Sox organization since 2013. It’s been a slow climb through the system for Acosta, having made it to High-A twice. It’s possible he sees time in Portland this summer but it doesn’t look to be as one of the regular playing outfielders.
W – Worcester. That’s Worcester, Massachusetts my friends. Largest city in Central Mass and home of the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate as of 2021. They’re building a new ballpark in the city and the PawSox will be leaving Pawtucket, RI and heading to Worcester. At first it was announced that the team would keep the same Red Sox name and just become the Worcester Red Sox (WooSox for short), but I’ve been hearing that’s not a completely done deal and there could be a new team name in the works to go along with the brand new ballpark. Whatever they’re called, I’m pumped. Only about an hour from my place to Worcester for Red Sox AAA ball as opposed to the hour and 35-40 minutes it takes me to get to Pawtucket.
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) August 17, 2018
X – Xander Bogaerts. Even though he’s not a prospect, I still think of Xander first and wonder who will eventually be the next in line at SS for the Red Sox. Will it be Flores? If you go by RosterResource.com, they’re only listing 4 other shortstops in the system, and I can’t really see three of them being Bogaerts’ successor. Tzu-Wei Lin is projected at AAA, Chatham at AA, Ryan Fitzgerald at A+, and the aforementioned Flores at A.
Y – Yasel Santana. I could have gone Yankory Pimentel but figured I wanted to stick to Top 50 names. Santana comes in at 49 on my Top 50 list and is one of my favorite names from deeper down in the system. He only walked 9 in 45.2 IP last year! He made it to Short Season Lowell last year and will probably spend some more time there this season with a shot at hitting A-ball Greenville.
Z – Zach Schellenger. My boys and I called Steve Pearce, Big Steve. Is it ok if I call Schellenger Big Zach? He’s 6’5, 210 and landed at #30 on my Sox Top 50 prospects last month. I liked what I wrote about him there so I’ll paraphrase here. Not-rated on my midseason list, focused on relieving, goes into 2019 as one of my new RP favorites in Boston’s minor leagues. Boston’s 2017 6th round pick out of Seton Hall.